Five UFC Fights that Need to Happen in 2023
The UFC had a great year in 2022. As we look forward to 2023, the UFC has its hands full if they want to meet that standard again. They have a chance though. Here are five fights the UFC needs to book in 2023. If they heed my advice we will have a great year ahead of us.
Before we get into things, I do not plan on discussing fights that we know will take place. For example, we all know Israel Adesanya is going to get an immediate rematch against Alex Pereira in 2023. I am not going to waste your time by talking about it.
1. Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones
Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones for the heavyweight title is the best fight that the UFC can book in 2023. I know, Jones’ return has been a topic of discussion for years, but, this time around it looks like he is actually coming back.
There are rumors that Jones is going to fight at UFC 285 in March 2023. It appears he has been ready to fight and that the UFC has struggled to find an opponent. Ngannou has been hurt, Stipe Miocic said no (allegedly), and Gane is injured. That leaves Curtis Blaydes.
I do not care if Blaydes is available in March and Ngannou is not. I do not care if I have to wait an extra six months for Jones’ return. Simply put, Jones vs. Ngannou is miles better than Jones vs Blaydes.
The return of Jones will be legendary. Regardless of your opinion, at worst, he is a top-two fighter of all time. Either way, winning the heavyweight title would end the MMA GOAT debate. Ngannou would be the perfect opponent. He is possibly the scariest fighter in UFC history and has knockout power like no other.
From a stylistic perspective, it would be interesting to see if Jones could solve the puzzle of beating Ngannou or if Ngannou would add another knockout to his highlight reel. My adrenaline is pumping just thinking about it.
No more time for jokes. It is time to see Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones.
2. Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington
Khamzat Chimaev is in a weird position. Does anyone know what weight class this guy is in? Honestly, I could care less. I would watch him fight at welterweight or middleweight. The issue is that it is hard to talk about a fighter when you do not know their weight class. From what I have seen as of late, his next fight will be at welterweight so let’s find a welterweight fight for him.
I do not think Chimaev’s next fight will be a title fight. He made a fool of himself at UFC 279 and I do not think the UFC will reward him after that. Plus, Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman have a trilogy to settle. Chimaev needs an opponent while the dust settles in front of him.
While that happens, Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington is the fight to make. Chimaev has looked tremendous thus far in his UFC career and few fighters have the skill to compete with him. Covington is one of those guys though. His mix of cardio and grappling would present an interesting skillset for Chimaev to tackle.
In the octagon, Chimaev vs. Covington would be must-watch television. Outside of the octagon, it would be unpredictable madness. Would we see trash talk or brawls? Or both? No matter what I am tuned in.
3. Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler
Is there a fight that makes more sense than Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler? We can play this game where we talk about a bunch of options for McGregor. You can propose alternative options like Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway, Jorge Masvidal, and more. While there are appealing aspects to those bouts, they just are not as interesting as McGregor vs. Chandler.
What makes this fight special is that Chandler has made himself must-watch TV without consistently winning. Sure, he has won fights, but he is 2-3 in the UFC. Instead, he put on entertaining scraps. The potential for war between McGregor and Chandler is appealing.
I think this fight would also be telling as to where McGregor stands in his career. Yes, Chandler is an elite fighter. He is just not at the level of Islam Makhachev, Charles Oliveira, or Dustin Poirier. No shame there, it is just the facts. I would like to see if McGregor can get a win against a solid lightweight. I would also like to see what McGregor does if Chandler makes this a war. Does he embrace it as Poirier did or does he roll over and let Chandler get a rear-naked choke?
I think McGregor vs. Chandler is an entertaining fight that would be telling of McGregor’s current skill level. Book it.
4. Justin Gaethje vs Rafeal Fiziev
Thus far we have focused on a lot of superstars. Not this time. If you are looking to book a fight that would instantly make its way into the fight of the year conversation, Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev is the fight that you are looking for.
This fight would be the epitome of violence. These guys are both great strikers. I will spare you the fight breakdown. The important thing to know is that this fight would provide two great strikers that will bite down on their mouthpiece and go to war. I can not think of a more entertaining fight that the UFC can book in 2023.
This fight would also provide an interesting old-school vs. new-school storyline. At the moment, the lightweight division has two generations of fighters at the top. On one hand, you have a group consisting of Poirier, Chandler, Gaethje, and more. On the other hand, you have the young upcoming fighters like Fiziev, Mateusz Gamrot, Jalin Turner, Arman Tsarukyan, and more. I would love to see some cross-over fights between these generations. At the moment, Fiziev has done the most to earn that opportunity.
5. Jorge Masvidal vs. Gilbert Burns
It seems like the UFC has tried to book Jorge Masvidal vs. Gilbert Burns several times now. The issue is that every time it has failed. It is hard to know exactly what is going on behind the scene so we will leave it at that. Despite not getting the fight booked yet, I think the UFC should continue to pursue this bout.
Masvidal is in a similar position to McGregor in the sense that you could propose a laundry list of fights for him. The UFC could book Masvidal against Stephen Thompson, Geoff Neal, or even McGregor sounds nice. I am sure some idiots are saying he should fight Leon Edwards to settle their beef. However, if you think that, you are wrong and should not get an opinion. Out of all of the bouts you could make for Masvidal in 2023, I think Burns is the way to go.
Assuming Burns beats Neil Magny at UFC 283, I think a fight between Masvidal and Burns is a win-win for both fighters. For Masvidal, Burns is probably the highest-ranked opponent that the UFC can give him. If he truly wants to work his way back into the title conversation, a win against Burns is the quickest way to do so. For Burns, Masvidal is a big name that he can use to grow his brand.
The last aspect of this fight that should be noted is that Burns should be rewarded for fighting Chimaev at UFC 273. At the time, nobody in the top five at welterweight had the guts to fight Chimaev. Burns did the UFC a favor by taking the and it is time for the UFC to return the favor.